Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: 2 Samuel 5-6
The relocation of the capitol from Hebron to Zion was politically strategic, providing geographically neutral location for the national headquarters. But this location also had profound spiritual significance. The Jebusite fortress had been neglected in the initial conquest of Canaan (Joshua 15.63; Judges 1.21), thus leaving God’s command undone (Deuteronomy 20.17). This first act as king established the critical precedent of following God’s lead; a precedent that had been rejected when the people demanded a king (compare 1 Samuel 8.20 and 2 Samuel 5.24). Following this, David’s choices to inquire of the LORD (5.19, 23), bring the ark to Jerusalem (6.15) and lead the people in worship to God (6.16-19) reminded the people who was leading Israel.
David’s coronation was both unifying and invigorating for the nation. But during these events, something strange happens. David called for the ark to be brought to Zion with much pageantry and procession (2 Samuel 6.1-4). But during the celebration, an ox stumbled, the ark began to slide off the cart and Uzzah reached out to stabilize it. “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error and he died…” (2 Samuel 6.7).
At first glance, God’s response is puzzling, but forces us to consider an issue of great import: God's holiness had been ignored. In his writings, Samuel has shown the ark was more than just a symbol. It was “the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim” (2 Samuel 6.2). In previous episodes from Samuel, Israel mistook the ark for a good luck token. But they were promptly defeated and the ark captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4.1-11). It was put in the temple of their god, Dagon, who was both destroyed and humiliated by God’s presence (1 Samuel 5.1-5). The ark’s presence among the Philistines led to affliction and panic and became so terrible they begged Israel to take it back (1 Samuel 5.6-6.9). In the end we are reminded that God has no rival. He needs no one to defend his honor. He is the only Sovereign God who is holy.
The insertion of another ark episode in this critical point in David’s kingdom draws our attention back to the presence of God. He was the reason for their success, but it was not simply for their pleasure. He must be considered and respected. His holiness demands it.
For God’s people, his holiness must always be a primary consideration, especially in areas of worship and service. Enthusiasm must always be tempered by submission if we will enjoy the blessing of God’s presence. We do not naturally understand holiness and must be taught (Titus 2.12). Just as David’s success was directed by God, so also his praise must be. Although God desires us to know him and be his people, it must be on his terms, with consideration for his holiness. He deserves it and he demands it.
“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.” (Psalm 29.2)
BIBLE READING: 2 Samuel 4
The death of Abner marked a shift in the war between Israel and Judah. Ish-bosheth basically gave up and those who backed him shuffled to find a way out. During this time Baanah and Rechab hatched a plan to reposition themselves with David. They murdered Ish-bosheth in his sleep, and immediately made their way to the courts of David with expectation.
“…And they said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.” (2 Samuel 4.8)
Although this was a cleverly designed statement, it betrayed two serious errors of judgment.
First, these men assumed this is what David wanted. After all, eradicating the previous king’s line was common for a king seeking to establish his rule. But David didn’t want revenge, nor did he regard Ish-bosheth as an enemy. Since being anointed, David had consistently refused to seek the life of Saul or his family. It was David’s stated conviction that vengeance belong to the Lord (1 Samuel 24.12; 26.10-11), and on this occasion he reaffirmed that it was the Lord who had delivered him from all his enemies (2 Samuel 4.9).
Second, they presumed their actions were approved by God. They knew David was appointed by God and it seems they presumed that meant this opportunity was from God. We have seen this before: Abishai assumed it was God’s will for them to kill Saul when they came across him in the cave (1 Samuel 26.8), but David made no such presumption. In fact, David invoked God’s will as the reason for sparing Saul’s life (1 Samuel 26.11).
There are a couple things for us to consider here. First, assuming what others want is never good and tends only towards strife. It’s always better to know than to assume. Second, even if David wanted this, God certainly did not. Ish-bosheth was guilty of nothing as far as we know. There was no justice or loyalty in the actions of these men; only selfish ambition. The outcome of this episode reminds us that acting to please people instead of God will always fail us.
Finally, many today are tempted to identify situations as the will of God when it looks like a good opportunity for them. But this line of thinking has led to many foolish choices. I know too many who have abandoned their marriage because the opportunity presented, and they believed God led them there. What they fail to acknowledge is the explicit will of God condemning their actions. We must understand that opportunity does not equal approval. Unless God is explicit, we do not know his will. So, we must not be flippant or assume an opportunity represents God’s approval.
Because God is at work in all things, there are times he will use the wicked to advance his will. However, we must not mistake their “success” for approval. God will ultimately hold all accountable for their choices, according to his will.
BIBLE READING: 2 Samuel 2-3
Now that Saul was dead, who would be king? Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth was next in line, but everyone knew David had been appointed by God (2 Samuel 3.9-10, cf. 1 Samuel 15.28; 28.17). Tensions mounted as both men were anointed (2 Samuel 2.8-11). When war broke out, David became the clear frontrunner (2 Samuel 3.1).
This was not by accident. God promised to tear the kingdom away from Saul and give it to David (1 Samuel 15.28; 28.17; 2 Samuel 3.18, cf. 1 Samuel 9.16). David would become king over all of Israel. These promises pervade the coming chapters. Seemingly everyone was aware of these promises, including those in Saul’s camp (see 2 Samuel 3.9-10, 18). Their awareness coupled with their conviction about God’s faithfulness opened the door for a smoother transition of power despite a series of negative events.
David also was convinced he would be king according to the promise of God. However, David does not immediately assert himself. Instead, he does it on God’s terms, in God’s time. This was David’s pattern of life. He refused to destroy Saul because that was God’s prerogative (1 Samuel 24.6). So, David’s next move was to inquire of the LORD, giving him direction on how to obtain the promise (2 Samuel 2.1). He proceeded diplomatically, fostering respect and loyalty in a time that could have been divisive (see 2 Samuel 2.4-7; 3.12-16, 35-39). Rather than seeking to establish himself or seek retribution, David humbly waited and faithfully acted as God directed.
While the events may appear random and fortuitous for David, God was working all things together to fulfill his promises. We must us observe David’s conviction of this in action. It was not enough just to know these promises, but to live and act with constant awareness of them. Through prayer and patience, David positioned himself to receive the kingdom God had promised. On God’s terms, in God’s time.
God’s promises drive faith but are often complicated in our minds by immediate circumstances. God promises various seasons but doesn’t stipulate how long they will last. God promises to return and deal with the wicked, but many treat that as foolish (2 Peter 3.3-4). Frustration and discouragement can develop if our focus is on the present. Events will rarely happen on our terms or our timeline; but we can be sure that God will come through. So, we must be diligent in prayer and daily mindful of God’s promises.
David shows us how to wait on the LORD as we go through life. There were times his choices seemed contrary to God’s promises (like refusing to kill Saul and become king), but David would not take matters into his own hands. That’s our natural inclination, but we must not get ahead of God. He is faithful, so we must settle our mind daily in both God’s nature and calling for us today. The time will come when we realized God’s faithfulness in its fulness. Until then, let us be diligent to practice the same faithfulness God has always shown to his people.
BIBLE READING: 2 Samuel 1
“…the young man said, “The people fled from the battle… Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.” (2 Samuel 1.4)
Saul personally assaulted David, made secret plots against him and even amassed an army to take David out. David spent years on the run because of Saul’s erratic behavior. But now Saul was dead. How do you think David responded?
“Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan…” (2 Samuel 1.11-12a)
Nearly everyone would have understood David celebrating the death of Saul. “FINALLY, he got what was coming… I can have some peace… I can be the leader God called me to be!” But instead, David mourned the death of Saul. Not once does David defame or slander Saul. Rather he honored Saul as the one God had anointed.
How many would do this today? Much of the modern narrative justifies retribution for a wrong done. Even in our own lives, we feel justified in giving people what they deserve, especially when they've done us wrong. But we see a much different attitude modeled and taught in scripture, especially from Jesus.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5.44-45)
David’s sorrow for Saul’s death models a Christ-like attitude towards authority and our enemies. David reminds us that we honor God by honoring leaders, regardless of how we feel about the person in office. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13.1-2). Our opinion of the person or their political leaning should never precede the honor we show leaders. If David refused to kill Saul out of respect for God (1 Samuel 26.11), we should take heed how we think about and behave towards our leaders. We cannot honor God if we do not honor authority.
Furthermore, the actions of others will not justify our ungodly behavior. In fact, godliness is often displayed when others are behaving badly. Much of the wrong suffered by David foreshadowed the suffering of the Christ. Several psalms David penned during this tumultuous time of life are Messianic as they depict the suffering Jesus would endure (For example, Psalm 22, 69). David’s attitude gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God who “was despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53.3); pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquity (53.5); he was oppressed and afflicted (53.7). Yet, how did Christ respond to his injustice? “He opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53.7). While this is a high calling, it is the calling of God that we can and must practice.
“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, let the LORD see it and be displeased…” (Proverbs 24.17-18a)
BIBLE READING: 2 Samuel 29-30
David was in a turbulent season of his life. On the run from King Saul, David found himself acting like a crazy person to make friends with the enemy (1 Samuel 21.13). Through lies and deception he gained the trust of a Philistine leader, Achish, even becoming his bodyguard (27.8-12; 28.2). We’re not told David’s intentions with this alliance. However, we know this had potential to put him in an awkward position when the Philistines went to battle against King Saul and the Israelite army.
Through what would appear God’s providence, David was excused from going to war against Israel. The other Philistines didn’t trust his reputation (29.4-5). We learn later this would be the battle in which Saul and Johnathan die. David would be hundreds of miles away, alleviating any sort of conspiracy theory of his involvement.
Instead, King Achish sent David home (29.7). But when David and his men arrived, they found their city burned and looted (30.1-2). The men turned and became hostile towards David, even wanting to stone him (30.6). In his distress, David was at a crossroads. For sixteen months David has been going at things his own way. Now he doesn’t know what to do. Much like the seasons of Abraham’s life, God has not been overtly giving David direction… and David hadn’t really asked in a while.
This situation seems to be a turning point. In 1 Samuel 30.6-8 we read something we haven’t seen in a while. “David strengthened himself in the LORD” and he asked God for direction. And just like with Abraham, David listened when God responded. He recovered his possessions and people and reestablished himself as a leader to trust. Moving forward, we see a more confident and stable version of David as he roots himself in the direction and praise of God.
In much the same way, God allows circumstances to bring us clarity and get us back on track. Is it possible the things that lead you to mourn and be discouraged in life are God’s tool to get your attention? To soften your heart and turn you from sin? To open a door of opportunity for ministry? We need to open our eyes and allow God to direct us through these seasons.
God’s direction may look differently for us today, but he can be heard loud and clear when we commit to be still and listen. Sometimes God’s grace allows us to do things our way to see that doesn’t work. Sometimes he providentially keeps us from things to protect us. Whatever the case, God knows what he’s doing even when we don’t.
When you look back on difficult seasons of life, what do you see? In hindsight we can identify pride and emotional choices that was wrong. That’s part of life. But through maturity and faith we should develop better clarity in the present, leading to deeper trust and conviction today in listening to the voice of God.
“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart” (Hebrews 3.15)